Census records, along with civil registrations, are one of the main sources of information for family historians and often a good place to start your family history research. They also give an insight into the lives of our ancestors as you trace their movements and changes in occupation over time.
A census is a count of all people and households in the country. In the UK the census has been conducted every ten years since 1801, with the exception in the war year of 1941.
Census records are only made available to the general public after a period of 100 years. Only those from 1841 to 1911 are generally available. This is because most of the early census returns for 1801-1831 were destroyed, with only statistical summaries being published. The few returns that have survived are now usually found in the local County Record Office1.
Genealogy Bookshop recommends...
Peter Christian and David Annal, Census: The Expert Guide (The National Archives, 2008)
The National Archives' authoritative guide to its most popular set of records is a one-stop guide covering everything you need to know about the 1841-1911 censuses in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. It provides an essential reference for anyone seeking to tap this unique resource, complete with illustrations, photographs, screenshots and case histories. It comprehensively covers getting the best results from online research, along with other ways of accessing the census from original records to microfilm, CDs and DVDs.
"Subtitled 'The expert guide' - this is no idle boast considering the book's pedigree." Family History Monthly
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Susan Lumas, Making Use of the Census (Public Record Office Readers Guide, 2002)
A valuable, easy-to-read guide to the Victorian 1841 to 1901 censuses, but not recommended for 1911.
"A book which should be compulsory reading for every reader" Family Tree Magazine
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Census records for England and Wales from 1841 to 1911, held at The National Archives at Kew, are available online through our partners. The 1841 Census was the first to include names, along with limited information about place of birth. From 1851 onwards, every person's relationship to the head of the household was recorded. The 1851 Census also included additional information about education and physical disabilities. Subsequent censuses further extended their range.
A search of the 1911 Census can be made at 1911census.co.uk - the official 1911 census website, in association with The National Archives.
The 1921 census and all later censuses remain in the custody of the Office for National Statistics rather than The National Archives. No information will be available from these censuses until 100 years after the date they were conducted.
1. A free comprehensive guide to available pre-1841 census returns has been published by Richard Wall, Matthew Woollard and Beatrice Moring of Essex University on Histpop - The Online Historical Population Reports Website.
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